UC Merced is among the nation’s top schools for sustainability for the third straight year, according to the Princeton Review’s Guide to 375 Green Colleges, and achieved its highest score to date with 95 out of a possible 99 points.
The university has been committed to sustainability since its inception. It’s the only campus in the nation to have all of its buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, and it continues to make progress toward its ambitious goal of becoming zero-waste, zero-net-energy and climate-neutral by 2020.
“UC Merced was founded during a time of increasing climate change awareness in our nation, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of sustainability in higher education,” Director of Sustainability Colleen McCormick said. “Achieving our sustainability goals has required commitment from campus leadership as well as students, faculty and staff, and our campus community has rallied around supporting these goals from day one.”
Key factors considered in the ranking’s methodology include whether students have a quality of life on campus that is both healthy and sustainable, how well schools prepare students for employment in an increasingly green economy and how environmentally responsible a school’s policies are.
Sustainability is part of the fabric of UC Merced, and is evidenced in planning and construction; procurement and operations; research on climate change, solar energy and energy efficiency; and student life activities.
UC Merced now has 17 LEED Building Design and Construction certifications overall, including eight Platinum designations, and is anticipating Gold or Platinum levels for all structures under construction and review. The campus is also surrounded by open space, much of which will never be developed as it is designated a nature reserve.
The university also takes seriously its obligation to prepare students for careers in sustainability-related fields. A LEED Lab course trains students to assess the performance of existing campus facilities and positions them to earn their LEED Green Associate and LEED Accredited Professional certifications, as does a new course on sustainable living spaces. The campus is also implementing the Energize Colleges internship program this year, initiated by the Department of Sustainability.
Carpooling and public transportation are encouraged at UC Merced, and as a member of the University of California system, the campus employs the Strategic Sourcing program to serve sustainable food and drink on campus. Last month the university placed No. 50 on the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools list.